Even if he did muddle his message — at least, for a moment.
“Your vote in 2018 is every bit as important as your vote in 2016,” Trump said, adding: “Although I’m not sure I really believe that. I don’t know who the hell wrote that line.”
He continued, as the audience laughed: “But it’s still important, remember.”
“The story is, ’18 midterms, we need Republicans,” Trump said. “And that will happen.”
As he has done in recent appearances, Trump name-checked Democratic senators who Republicans want to oust this fall. Among the targets on Tuesday during his speech at the National Building Museum were Democratic Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) — all up for reelection this year in states that voted for Trump in 2016, and who voted in January to filibuster legislation that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
“Democrats like to campaign as moderates at election time, but when they go to Washington, they always vote for the radical Pelosi agenda down the line,” Trump said, referring to the current House minority leader. “Can you imagine having Nancy Pelosi as the speaker of the House?”
Trump warned conservatives against complacency in his first midterms as president, when his party is expected to lose seats, particularly in the House where control is up for grabs. He boasted of a “massive campaign” for a GOP win this November, and stressed the need to elect more lawmakers “who will protect life.”
“Every values voter must be energized, mobilized and engaged. You have to get out there,” Trump said. “This November, vote for family, vote for love, vote for faith and values, vote for country and vote for life.”
In classic Trump fashion, the president veered often to off-topic chatter. He decried Democrats for wanting to “open those borders.” He previewed a new round of tax cuts that he said he will put forward before November and touted economic gains. Trump also openly mulled changing some Senate terms, which run for six years, to just two years.
The gala also underscored the significant transformation of the alliance between Trump and the antiabortion movement — a relationship that began on a rocky note more than two years ago when a coalition of antiabortion groups wrote a letter urging caucus voters to elect “anyone but Donald Trump.”
As she introduced Trump, SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser called him a man “who stood up for the unborn boys and girls, who invited us in and who kept his word.”
“Many doubted, and that is understandable,” Dannenfelser said. “We’d been betrayed before. He had no record to run on, but I am here to tell you today that when it comes to life, President Trump is keeping his promises.”
Dannenfelser was part of that coalition who penned the letter, but since then, Trump has worked assiduously to court social conservatives who were once so skeptical of him.
One of his first major accomplishments in office was installing a conservative justice, Neil M. Gorsuch, to the Supreme Court. As a candidate, Trump released a list of potential Supreme Court candidates that helped assuage concerns from right that he would nominate conservatives to the court.
While in office, Trump has taken even more actions that have enthralled the social conservatives. Last year, the White House signed legislation that gave states permission to withhold federal family planning funds from groups that offer abortion services, such as Planned Parenthood. He also issued an executive order that blocked U.S. aid to organizations that offer abortion counseling or referrals, an expansion of the so-called “global gag rule.”
And last week, the administration announced that it plans to bar clinics that perform abortions from receiving federal family-planning funds — a proposal that Trump promoted at the gala Tuesday night. The plan requires a “bright line” separating clinics that can receive federal funding from organizations that provide abortions or referrals to abortion clinics.
“The evolution of our feelings toward President Trump are very well-documented over the course of the campaign and likewise, when it became a binary choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, we made it very clear then who we would be supporting,” said Mallory Quigley, an SBA List spokeswoman.
She added: “He is governing as the most pro-life president in our nation’s history.”